A Dream Diverted: How To Address Racial Inequality – Part 1

About a month ago, after I posted a photo from the Black Panther: Vanguard of the Revolution on Instagram, one of my favorite & most engaged followers asked me essentially, “What do you do with the anger?” She went on to describe how films like Black Panther rile her up emotionally. I promised her that I would write a blog in response to her question.


Every week it seems that there is a video release of an unarmed black person murdered by police. Political candidates are waxing poetic about how much they are going to change our lives. The emotions that we feel – confusion, anger, frustration, rage, indifference – are all valid. So what are we to do with it? Emotions are a powerful thing! They are like fuel to our actions, and gasoline to our motivation for better or for worse.

When it comes to racial injustice, we have to first remember that this notion of race is rooted in myth  and has been largely used to maintain a social hierarchy for a dominant group. As “There Is No Such Thing As Race” describes, “…the concept of human races is real. It is not a biological reality, however, but a cultural one. Race is not a part of our biology, but it is definitely a part of our culture. Race and racism are deeply ingrained in our history.” So when we consider what we are trying to do in pointing out, lifting up, shining a light on racial biases, we are pulling at the strings of the very fiber of our society and our world.

It is my belief that it is for THIS reason, that many people respond to issues of racial injustice with shock, guilt, disbelief – all defense mechanisms to maintain the status quo. It is also my belief that we must consider how race was constructed primarily through media, education, public policy, violence (domestic terrorism) and science, in order to truly disassemble it. If you want to remove a tree, you’ve got to take out the roots, otherwise you’ll look up and it will be standing stronger, taller and prouder than ever before.

Part 2 of this series will be available next Tuesday, December 1st.

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Apple Cider Mimosas via The Chew

Earlier this week, I was watching “The Chew” and Clinton Kelly created an Apple Cider Mimosas. I’m not a big alcohol person, but I LOVE champagne! So I took note and decided to try it out today.

The original recipe called for half a glass of chilled Apple Cider, half a glass of chilled Champagne and a sugared cranberry. I used Honey Crisp Apple Cider, Korbel Extra Dry White Champagne and fresh cranberry. It is truly a hit! One bottle of champagne was enough for 3 1/2 glasses.

Here is what the finished product looked like:


It was the perfect homemade cocktail for my mother-in-law’s visit this weekend and it truly does capture Fall! I’m going to try out the same recipe with different types of juice.

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Holy Cute: Craft Supplies

I’m a scrapbooker, and an avid Planner enthusiast. I’m eagerly anticipating the arrival of my Kate Spade Wellesley Planner, which will be my new planner for the remainder of the year and 2016. I’ll share the inserts and why I selected that particular planner when it arrives in a the next couple of weeks.

I frequent Michael’s, Jo Ann Fabrics and Hobby Lobby regularly, but also love to support the small, independent and local craft stores when I get the opportunity.

While in New York City, I visited The Ink Pad, located at 37 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10011. Not only do they offer very unique stamps that I’ve never seen before (I saw Michael Jackson, farm animals, and even funny phrases), they also offer classes!

IMG_7433Here are the goodies that I picked up:

IMG_7482Memento Dye Inks, Gelly Roll Sakura Glitter Pens, Washi Tape, Planner Themed Stamps, Calendar Stickers.

The Memento Dye Inks are so vibrant & easy to clean up. I plan to use the inks with my new planner stamps:

IMG_7485The stamps make since for me, because these are all phrases that I use on a weekly basis, so I’ll really get good use out of them. Especially the “To Do” Stamp, the “All Out Of” For Grocery Shopping and the “ASAP” for deadlines.

IMG_7482 2Here are the Gelly Roll Sakura Stardust Pens:


The photos didn’t do the ink justice, so I recorded a short video to show you what the ink looks like:

Here is what both the Glitter Pens and the Stamps/Memento Ink look like in use:

IMG_7489You can never have enough Washi Tape and hearts are my favorite:

IMG_7498Lastly, I picked up two different books of Calendar Stickers:

IMG_7494 IMG_7496Looking forward to making some time to check out other craft stores in the near future. Crafting feeds my spirit! Be sure to check out my other Scrapbooking/Crafting posts: http://donnienicole.com/tag/scrapbooking/.

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Scholarship For Women In Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics

Came across this awesome Scholarship Opportunity for young women! Please spread the word! I will begin sharing scholarship information here on my blog!

Applications for Cards Against Humanity’s Full Ride Scholarship to Close December 1st

CHICAGO, IL – Applications will close on December 1st, 2015 for Cards Against Humanity’s Science Ambassador Scholarship, a full-ride scholarship for a woman seeking an undergraduate degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. The recipient of the award will receive full tuition coverage for up to four years. Both college and high school students may apply.

The growing $500,000 scholarship trust is funded by sales of Cards Against Humanity’s “Science Pack,” co-authored with Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal’s Zach Weinersmith and Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait. The pack is available for $10 at CardsAgainstHumanity.com.

“I’m really excited that we’re able to offer a full-ride scholarship,” said Cards Against Humanity Community Director Jenn Bane. “We aren’t just picking up the cost of books, we’re funding an education. It’s so important that young girls know they have a future in any field they want to explore, especially math and science, which are historically male-dominated fields. We felt like we could make a huge impact in this area by funding a woman’s education, and helping her become an ambassador for her field.”

To apply, candidates should submit a three minute video to  ScienceAmbassadorScholarship.org explaining a scientific topic they are passionate about. Applicants must be U.S. residents in high school or college and must identify as a woman in a way that’s significant to them.

“We dedicated to accept video applications because we want to raise visibility of women who are passionate about science,” said Bane. “Production value doesn’t matter in the videos. We’re simply looking for a candidate who is excited to share her love of science. As we approach the deadline, we’re hoping to receive a flood of new videos.”

Scholarship applications will be reviewed by a board of fifty women who hold higher degrees and work professionally in science, including representatives from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Harvard Medical School, the Smithsonian Institution, the Adler Planetarium, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as TED, NSF, Huxley, and Hubble fellows. The winner will be announced in the spring of 2016.

Cards Against Humanity co-creator Josh Dillon said, “Our hope is that this scholarship makes a significant impact in one scientist’s life and increases the visibility of women in STEM fields.”

Similar charitable packs released by Cards Against Humanity have raised nearly $3 million for nonprofits like the Wikimedia Foundation, the Sunlight Foundation, and DonorsChoose.org, where Cards Against Humanity has funded over 13,000 teacher projects in high-poverty classrooms across the United States.

For press inquires, please contact jenn@cardsagainsthumanity.com.

To apply, visit www.ScienceAmbassadorScholarship.org.

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In My Father’s House Is Not About Placing Blame…


Caption: Our family on the red carpet at the Chicago Premiere of In My Father’s House.

Let me start by saying “thank you” to everyone who has gone to see our film In My Father’s House. While Che and I have always considered ourselves to be “open books,” this documentary opens up our home and our family in a way that we’ve never experienced before. Our hope, is that people will be inspired to examine their own families and most of all to heal, forgive and move forward.

When you’re in the public eye, people tell you to “stay off social media” and to “not read the comments,” but I believe that social media is an incredible platform to share information, connect and inspire. You can imagine my confusion when we came across a tweet that said “Rhymefest ‘slut shames’ his single mother” with a tag to Amber Rose. It continued with “Rhymefest disses his single mother” and more, and more tweets oversimplified both the song “Lost and Found” and the film.

My mother-in-law is one of the strongest women I know, and she was the first person that Che went to, for permission to go on the journey to find his father in the first place. As a single mom, like most single moms, she did the best she could. I can’t tell you how many people have approached us after screenings to share that they were interested in connecting to their fathers, but their mothers forbade them and made them feel guilty for wanting to connect. I myself was raised by a single mother, and my mother taught me the value of hard work, was a beautiful example of resiliency and despite not having a partner to help raise me, she did the best she could.

Some people will post anything to get likes, follows and mentions. Because “content is king,” real journalism is often passed over for the tabloid style, sensationalized garbage that misrepresents and distorts. And don’t even get me started about “slut-shaming!” “Slut-shaming” should not even be in the same sentence as “single-mother,” as it was in the tweet we were mentioned in. Parenting is rough work, and it is not easy when there are two parents, let alone, single parents (either moms or dads). When it comes to parenting though, there are some things that happen that negatively impact our children… and that is a reality! Che mentions in the song, “Never had a father/ so I blamed my momma/ she had bad judgment, and horrible karma/ couldn’t even find a decent man for me to honor/ got my degree from the streets that was my alma mater…”

Che is not represented as the perfect father in our documentary, and he’s not without flaws. Che’s father was not the perfect father, and he’s not without flaws. Che’s mother had some challenges as a mother, and she’s not without flaws… but name one parent, or person that is not without flaws. We have to discuss these things – these choices that are made – that affect our children, so that we can break the cycles that negatively impact our families and our communities. Furthermore, “Lost and Found” is a great example of a piece of art that is therapeutic and cathartic. I wish we could get more honest portrayals of family life in hip hop.

Additionally, the notion that our film is about “blame,” is preposterous. If that is the conclusion that you’ve drawn, I’d ask that you watch the film again. When we’re talking about finding “blame.” it often means we are pointing the finger at someone else, and therein lies the problem. My husband wanted to be a better father, and realized that until he dealt with his internal feelings with his own father, he wouldn’t be able to have a proper relationship with his own children. It was his internal anger, hurt and frustration that forced him to go on the journey to find his father in the first place… at 35 years old. Focusing on “blame” doesn’t allow you to move forward, it forces you to live in the past. Our film is about attempting to get to the root cause – why do we make the decisions that we make, and why do we repeat the pathologies that continue to cause trauma? Our film is about unconditional love… loving our family members despite the challenges and difficulties they face (in the case of my father-in-law alcoholism).

If you have not done so, please check out In My Father’s House, now in select AMC Theaters across the country.


Filed under Health, Parenting

My Family Is Featured In A Documentary… In AMC Theaters Today

I am so excited to share that our film In My Father’s House opens in 20 AMC Theaters nationwide today. In June of 2012, we moved into the family home of my husband’s paternal family. Shortly after our move, my husband began asking questions about his father, as he hadn’t seen him since he was 12 years old. He wanted to know, “was he alive?” and “why did he abandon me?” He had many unanswered questions, so I encouraged him to go find his father just so that he could have closure… When we found my father-in-law Brian, he had been living on the West Side of Chicago, homeless, for over 25 years.

The documentary follows our family for the first year. Finding Brian has profoundly changed us individually and collectively. It is our belief that we won’t have healthy communities until we repair our families. If you see the film, please let me know. We can make things better for ourselves, one relationship, one household and one family at a time.

Here is where the movie is being screened starting today:

In My Fathers House

Here are some photos from the premiere we hosted with 700 of our Chicago-based friends, family and colleagues:


My husband, Che Smith, on the red carpet. Photo by Juan Anthony Images.


Our filmmakers Ricki and Annie, with our brothers Common, Judge Mathis, Maurice, and Che & I. Photo by Juan Anthony Images.


Our filmmakers, with Neli Vazquez-Rowland (from A Safe Haven, the organization that helped my father in law Brian), with Common & my father in law Brian. Photo by Juan Anthony Images.


Some of my Donda’s House Fam at the screening. I love my #squad! Photo by Juan Anthony Images.


Common opened up the film. Photo by Juan Anthony Images.


The Smith Family at the Premiere! Photo by Juan Anthony Images.


Brian Tillman – my father in law! Photo by Juan Anthony Images.


Me and my love. Photo by Juan Anthony Images.


My hubby talking to some of his best friends. Photo by Juan Anthony Images.


Historic Music Box Theatre, where we hosted our red carpet premiere.


Judge Mathis gave words of encouragement to everyone in our family. Honored to have his support for the film.


Q & A after the film. Photo by Juan Anthony Images.

Check out this recap of the Chicago Premiere here, produced by K Shack Vidz, who also did some of the video work in the film.

You can learn more about the film here, including joining the mailing list to receive updates. I hope you enjoy it and thank you so much for reading my blog ;)

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How To Decrease The Distance Between Your Dreams & Reality


My daily goal in life is to decrease the distance between my dreams and my reality.

If you had met me ten years ago… you wouldn’t recognize me.

Ten years ago, I was trapped in a bad marriage and I worked at a job that took more life than it gave. I tiptoed around my brilliance, snuck away from my passions and consistently cursed out any thought that would force me to make a change in my life.

Sometimes our dreams are like our shadows… ever present… looming… unable to be grasped. We can see them… they are vaguely familiar, but for whatever reason the distance remains.

What is that THING that is burning inside of you. Maybe it came to you when you were a little girl? It was a dream so vivid that you almost forgot you were dreaming. I’m here to tell you that THAT THING can become your reality. You just have to make a plan.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s scary. You may be forced to end long-standing relationships. Your 10 year plan may get reduced to a 7 day plan. The thing about a dream is that it forces you to JUMP! Especially when you first start pursuing it. Whether you want to own your own business. Get married. Travel to a distant place. You can make it happen.

If you want to start your own business, don’t wait. Even if you work a 9 – 5 right now, you have some free time. Are your evenings and weekends free? Can you devote at least one of those nights to working on your business? Your job may be in control for those 8 hours you’re there, but you control the other 16 hours! Have you talked to someone who is doing what you’d like to do? Have you invested in your self by reading books, taking training courses and creating a website or marketing plan?

If you want to get married.. are you actively dating? Are you hanging out in places where you’d hope to hang out with a future spouse? Volunteering… Attending a professional conference… Have you spoken to the people in your tribe (your friends and family) who can keep their ears and eyes open for potential dates? Are you working to be the best you that you can be, so that when that partner comes along, you are secure, stable and ready (but not TOO READY lol) to open your heart?

If you want to travel, do you have your passport? Have you connected with other people in your circle who seem to regularly travel? Group travel is the best because you save so much money! Maybe you’re not quite ready to go to Thailand, but have you hit the beautiful beaches of Florida or California? Are you saving money so that you can travel comfortably without breaking the bank.

It’s taken 10 years for me to be in a place where I can say that many of my dreams have become reality. When I have a dream, I immediately go into planning mode. It’s not enough for me to dream anymore. I want as many of my dreams to become reality. The thing about my dreams that I realized is that there was one thing holding me back… me. Once I admitted that, literally, my life transformed before my eyes.

“A dream without a deadline is just a delusion…”


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